Tears, snaps and sighs echoed throughout the University Student Union ballroom Tuesday night as members of the LGBT community shared their stories of coming out, embracing and encouraging each other on National Coming Out Day.
It marked the 28th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, an event to celebrate those who have come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, and support those still closeted.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted the first annual Coming Out Monologues to bring awareness to the LGBT community. Speakers sat in unison at the event before each took to the rainbow-lit stage to share their personal stories and experiences.
It was part of OUTober, a month-long celebration of the LGBT community at Cal State Long Beach.
Dr. John Higgins, assistant director of cultural affairs, said he hoped that the Coming Out Monologues would give speakers and attendees the opportunity to support each other and provide a safe, uncensored environment.
“These are very real and very raw stories,” he said.
CSULB student-worker Parker Aguirre Pineda was the first speaker on stage. She shared her struggles with coming out to her mom at the age of 15 and how hurt she felt when her mom shared the information to Pineda’s homophobic dad.
She was conflicted about her own feelings and felt that the intimate information should not have been shared without her consent.
“I felt anger, I felt relief. I was angry because it was still mine,” she said. “Some people don’t deserve to know who you are and I’m learning how to live with that.”
CSULB student Ramon Edwards also shared his story. Fighting through tears, he recalled waiting for his mother as she got ready for their trip to a carnival in September 2009. Edwards was upset that he couldn’t be with his female best friend that day. After his mother mentioned that he spent too much time with his best friend, Edwards fired back and said that he didn’t even like girls.
“I had the urge to just run, to just hide,” he said.
Edwards was worried that his mother wouldn’t love him anymore, but his fear was soon relieved when she assured him that he would have her love no matter what he did.
“I am certain that I am loved unconditionally and with that, in itself, I can do anything,” he said.
Doyle Smiens captivated the audience by turning his back to them when it was his turn at the stage. He sang a peaceful song and interrupted himself with “F*ggot! Homo!”
He went on to share his story about growing up in Iowa and ignoring his gay identity. Later in his life as a man in a heterosexual marriage, his wife asked him the three words he always feared: “Are you gay?” Smiens shared his experience about revealing to his two children that he was gay, and the liberating feeling he had when he accepted his sexual identity.
Higgins later applauded the speakers who had the courage to speak in front of the audience and said he was happy to provide a safe zone for all who attended.
“I’m very open. I’m a queer black man on campus,” he said. “There are very few of us and if it’s something I can talk about, then it’s something I’m very proud of.”
The Office of Multicultural Affairs will continue its OUTober events with a panel called Intuitive Sexuality: Getting What You Want Out of Your Relationship on Oct. 12 at 1:30 p.m. in USU 305.